Friday June 27th, 2008

NEW YORK -- Some observations from a draft that heated up with an early-morning trade:

Minnesota VP Kevin McHale had it right the first time. The Timberwolves drafted O.J. Mayo with the third pick, but after the draft ended it was reported that they were trading Mayo to the Grizzlies as part of an eight-player deal. In return, Minnesota's big prizes were Kevin Love and Mike Miller.

What is at the root of McHale's fascination with Love? Yes, Love is a skilled big man who will probably have a serviceable NBA career. But Love doesn't have anywhere near the upside of Mayo, a potential franchise guard. With Mayo and Al Jefferson as cornerstones, the Wolves were going somewhere. Now, Minnesota will have to build around a talented but undersized frontcourt (Love, Al Jefferson) without a marquee guard. Minnesota was able to get Miller, one of the NBA's best shooters, and rid themselves of Jaric's hefty contract (three years, $21 million remaining), but they will live to regret not keeping Mayo.

Geoff Petrie is smarter than all of us. He has to be. Why else would the Kings' president select a player with the 12th overall pick (Rider power forward Jason Thompson) who was rated in most mock drafts in the mid-20s?

A quick glance at Thompson's collegiate career is telling. He averaged 20.4 points and 12.4 rebounds, but was never really dominant against the weaker MAAC competition. This was the biggest surprise of the first round.

Did Michael Jordan get it wrong again? OK, I like the Bobcats' selection of point guard D.J. Augustin with the ninth pick. He's a little on the small side (6-1, 170) but outside of Derrick Rose, he is the best pure point guard in the draft. With a little seasoning and some patience from Larry Brown, Augustine could start in two years. The Bobcats will have to shop 24-year-old incumbent Raymond Felton, who is far too young to be a placeholder for Augustine. Felton is an up-and-coming point guard in his own right and has strong market value.

But Alexis Ajinca at No. 20? To me, Ajinca has Frederic Weis written all over him. At 7-1, Ajinca has the height to play the center position, but he lacks the bulk (he's listed at 225 pounds) and the physical nature to compete on a nightly basis. His enormous wingspan makes him a legit shot-blocking threat, but I wonder if he won't get bullied underneath by NBA big men.

With memories of Kwame Brown and Adam Morrison still fresh in people's minds, Jordan should have found a way to trade up to get Georgetown center Roy Hibbert, who went three picks ahead of Ajinca. Jordan needed to get this draft right.

Split decision for the Nets. The Richard Jefferson deal didn't make sense. Yes, the Nets no longer are committed to paying Jefferson $15 million in 2010-11, which gives them more flexibility to pursue LeBron James as a free agent in 2010. But as much as Jay-Z might lobby for it, I can't envision LeBron's signing with the Nets.

On the other hand, the decision to draft Lopez was smart. Lopez is a legit 7-footer whose presence will allow Nenad Krstic to slide to the power forward position. Lopez is also a fairly polished offensive player, so he should be able to contribute to a big-man rotation that, outside of Krstic, is devoid of other scorers.

The Warriors got the steal of the draft. OK, so Anthony Randolph might make Manute Bol look like Hulk Hogan, but the spindly power forward has Chris Bosh-like skills. Bring in John "Hot Plate" Williams as Randolph's eating coach. Who knows how long Don Nelson will stay in the Bay Area, but Randolph would appear to be the perfect fit for his free-flowing system.

I feel for Darrell Arthur. After feeling the highs of winning a national championship at Kansas, Arthur felt the lows of being the last guy in the NBA's green room, the result of rumors about a potential kidney issue. He slipped to No. 27.

Anyone want a pick? The Spurs, who made it known that they wanted nothing to do with their first-round pick before the draft, selected IUPUI guard George Hill at No. 26. I'm surprised they didn't take a chance on Arthur, who has the potential to play both forward positions.

Joe Alexander would have made a great Buck ... yesterday. Twenty-four hours ago, Alexander was penciled into the Milwaukee starting lineup at small forward. But with Jefferson now on board, it's uncertain how Alexander fits in. The only way this pick makes sense is if the Bucks are able to trade Michael Redd, allowing Jefferson (who played some shooting guard in New Jersey) and Alexander to play together.

• Here is my list of second-round steals:

Joey Dorsey, No. 33, Rockets (via trade with Trail Blazers). Will Dorsey be the next Carlos Boozer? No. Could he be another Ben Wallace? Maybe. Dorsey is a rugged rebounder with limited offensive skills, but if he can be an intimidating defensive presence -- a la Wallace -- any offense you get is a bonus.

DeAndre Jordan, No. 35, Clippers. Take a look at the archives of a few mock drafts and you will probably see Jordan's name listed as a lottery pick. Jordan has drawn comparisons to Dwight Howard, but poor workouts had NBA scouts believing Jordan needed to return to Texas A&M for his sophomore season. But Jordan does have potential: He's big (7-0, 260 pounds), physical and has great hands. He's sorely lacking in fundamentals, but if those are developed he could be a star.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, No. 40, Nets. I like developed players. Douglas-Roberts is that. I like winners. Douglas-Roberts played a key role in helping Memphis reach the national title game. I like guards with size (he's 6-7, 200) and skill (few college players were better pure scorers). The Nets, badly in need of scoring after dealing Jefferson, are getting a contributor next season.

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